Blogsam and Jetsam

Flotsam is the part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the water. Jetsam is cargo or parts of a ship that are deliberately thrown overboard, as to lighten the ship in an emergency, and that subsequently either sinks or is washed ashore. This is my personal blog version of the above. Loot freely.

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Location: The Hinterlands, Upstate NY

I'm annoyed that the world is going crazier faster than it used to be. But it's interesting to watch.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Domestic Update

I finally succumbed and switched to the "new" Blogger. Let's hope it doesn't suck.

Cooking first: SuperCrockPot did not implode when I threw two boxes of frozen meatballs in it with a jar and a half of marinara sauce rinsed out with balsamic vinegar. Good thing too since it resulted in some awesome hoagies that night. I've also done "my" potroast which is super-easy: in addition to the slab of meat you need one or two onions and two packages (one box) of onion soup mix. Slice onion, place half on bottom of crockpot then use the two packages of onion soup mix as a dry rub all over the meat making sure that all the bits of dehydrated onion end up in the pot and not on the kitchen floor--I do it over foil then put meat in pot and dump in whatever was on the foil. Remaining onions go on top.

I tried the most palatable of the recipes from the fancy-schmancy guide that came with the beast: Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Onions. It was pretty much exactly what it sounds like with some melted butter tossed in. I was supposed to add Herbes de Provence but of course I didn't have any and couldn't remember what was in it. After discovering the very-easily-overdone rosemary and thyme were both part of the mix I decided to go with some plain ol' sweet basil instead. It all cooked down into a delightful side dish...but nobody else liked it except for MIL. She and I ate the stuff for a week.

Yesterday however, I tried a new recipe from this month's Family Circle magazine. It's their "Asian Pepper Beef" (or whatever they called it) and it turned out really well although next time I will NOT be adding the "one cup of beef stock" they suggest since I ended up with a soup. I've had that problem with crockpot cooking before: I don't think the recipe writers realize that a crock pot is by definition an organic chemistry refluxer and thus no water leaves the vessel during cooking. The smart thing I did was to use prepackaged chow mein noodles as the starch since that turned dinner into an instant event as soon as I walked in the door and made everyone happy besides--chow mein noodles are fun. Also one of my family members doesn't care for rice in any form. It made enough for good leftovers and since the seasoning is pretty bland it's going to come back later on as fajita filling after I've added a can of diced green chiles and some Mexene.

Holidays second: Finally got Christmas put away yesterday. I always make sure to take down all the outside stuff on Epiphany and I don't let the kids actually plug in the tree after that either but it usually takes a few more days to get things boxed and stowed. Like others I believe that we should enjoy all twelve days of Christmastide but that once they're over we should put the stuff away till next year.

Which brings up another question, namely why does a self-professed atheist pay so much attention to the religious trappings of Christmas? Well, because we're celebrating Christmas and not Solstice or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or any other winter festival. All of which are well and good and fine but not our household's holidays. So as Grandmom always said, if you're going to go to the dance, then dance (although it sounded much better in Italian.) One can certainly debate both the divinity and existence of Jesus Christ and a good argument can be made that the whole holiday started so as to enfold pre-existing solstice celebrations, but if you're going to celebrate Christmas you have to first acknowledge that WHAT you're celebrating is the birth of a baby who grew up to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Since we're here anyway I'll riff on "faith" for a bit, starting with my lack thereof. It just never "took" with me. I was raised on the Time-Life Nature and Science books and thought evolution and ancient hominids were just about the coolest thing ever...and I was raised IN a house run by a man who at the time was a rabid atheist so the idea of a single Creator-God just never grew in my psyche. Neither did the concept that "religion" was what told a person about right from wrong and not harming others since we didn't have any in our house.

That changed when my parents got divorced. Turned out that my mother actually did believe and had just been keeping her mouth shut the first eight years of my life. She started going back to her flavor of church, which was Methodist, so I did too. Made a friend who happened to be the son of the music director so I started singing in the choir and liked it really well. The ritual was fun, the robes were fun, the people were fascinating and it was all very I kept going even though I didn't believe.

At around 15 I started seriously exploring religions. I had noticed that lots of them claimed to be the one right path and that many of their practitioners seemed to have an inner calmness and sense of purpose that was appealing, so I investigated. I did a lot of reading and a lot of going with friends to their ceremonies and a lot of really trying to believe and kept it up for literally an entire decade before concluding that none of them were for me. They all had their truly kind and generous practitioners and seemed to be at least in part designed to help us all go against our greedier instincts and live with one another in ways that raise the baseline for everyone...but they also all required blind faith and commitment to sets of ideas with which I didn't entirely agree.

I also discovered that religion was a great place for the seriously lazy and the fierce charlatans to take up residence and that wars fought with religion as their base tended to be the longest and bloodiest because both sides thought the One True God was with them.

Fortunately I found a like-minded soul in HBF (who came by way of a Catholic-school education.) We do just fine without religion although we've taken an incredible amount of shit for raising the children that way. Which really pisses me off since I think the choice not to practice a religion is just as valid. (An aside: my opinion of Tony Blair went up greatly when he used the phrase "for those of all religions and those of no religion" in a speech; it was so nice to be included for once!) What we tell the kids over and over is "because we don't believe in any religion it's important to respect all of them and their practitioners."

By now they've certainly overheard me saying (usually when MIL is watching the Hour of Power) things along the line of "I can't believe people actually send him/her/them money; if he/she/they were really interested in helping the other humans he/she/they would be out there DOING GOOD and not standing there talking about it!" On the other hand they've also seen me respecting hell out of MIL's choice to watch that show; I delay the grocery shopping for that reason alone every single week.

"Tolerance" and "peaceful coexistence" are big buzzwords of mine. Wish they were for everyone else on the planet too.


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